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Cats are prone to cognitive dysfunction or feline senility, an aging condition that resembles Alzheimer’s in humans. In fact, a recent study by Danielle Gunn-Moore, a veterinary surgeon from Scotland, has revealed that 28 percent of cats who are 11-14 years old are affected by this condition, while a huge 50 percent are affected in cats above 15 years of age.
If your geriatric cat exhibits sudden behavioral changes, confusion and disorientation in familiar places or with familiar people, or changes in the sleep cycle, it is possible that they may be suffering from cognitive dysfunction. But it is best to visit a vet as all these are also symptoms of other diseases like arthritis and diabetes.
In case your cat is diagnosed, here are the things to keep in mind while caring for them.
Stick to a routine
Maintaining a routine reduces disorientation and confusion in your cats. If their schedule keeps changing, it will only leave them more stressed and confused. So remember to keep things as steady and predictable as possible. Keep food bowls and litter boxes in the same places, feed them at the same time every day, play with them regularly at the same time daily. If possible, avoid switching rooms and rearranging furniture.
Regular physical and brain exercises
Keeping cats stimulated physically and mentally is a great way to prevent or reduce cognitive dysfunction. Play with them daily to engage them in physical activities that are also mentally stimulating like fetch or treasure hunts. For example, hide their treats under their meal or place toys on shelves. Train them to respond to various commands like ‘sit’, ‘stand’, ‘roll’ or handshakes. Give them treats every time they play well or learn something new.
Create a friendly living space
Create or redo your house in small ways that could make things easier for your cat. Cats with senility may find it difficult to navigate around the house due to their disorientation. Keep extra litter boxes around the house in areas that are easy to access. They often have trouble sleeping at night, or wake up in the middle of the night. Leave your nightlights on so that your cat can easily navigate around, to find their bowls or litter boxes at such times. Being able to see and sense reduces their anxiety and confusion. Also, remember to restrict access to places that might be dangerous for your cat like the laundry room.
Know your cat’s limits
Lastly, you should always keep in mind that your geriatric cat suffering from cognitive dysfunction is not as swift or strong or sharp as it once was. Just like humans when they age, cats also face a lot of limitations as they get older. Understand this and be gentle and patient with them. Never overwork them even during play. They should never be forced or threatened, but instead, encourage them and teach them what they have to know with reinforcement of treats and affection.